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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: With Odisha having voted for both the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha, the Election Commission has waived the mandatory 14 tables counting norm for the State.

"There is a norm of EC to have only 14 counting tables in a counting centre. However, as the State is witnessing simultaneous polls we have requested to allot more tables to ensure faster counting process. EC has permitted to put 411 more tables. The additional tables will be allotted to centres witnessing more rounds," informed Surendra Kumar, Odisha CEO.

As per Odisha CEO, the State to witness on an average 30 rounds of counting per constituency. But Sambalpur Assembly Constituency to witness the minimum of 19 rounds, Patnagarh with 49 rounds of count has the maximum counting rounds in the State.

Significantly, CEO has flagged a serious concern where he said there is a possibility of non-deletion of mock votes exercised before the start of regular polling. "I have conveyed about the inadvertent errors to the ECI and waiting for further ECI directions. In such cases, however, it could be that the VVPAT slips will be counted to eliminate the error," he observed.

Elaborating on the time-consuming counting hours in the State, Kumar said as compared to mere 31, 326 ballots counted in 2014 general elections, till to date a whopping 1 lakh postal ballots have been received. The CEO office will not entertain any postal ballot for counting, if received beyond 8AM on Wednesday.

Moreover, EC has issued 43, 357 ETPB (Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot) to service voters. The Returning Officers (RO) are mandated to scan the QR codes to consider the ETPB for counting. Sufficient number of QR scanners have been deployed to complete the process smoothly, informed Kumar. Postal ballots will be counted on RO table, he added.

The control unit (EVM) counting, however, will start after half-an-hour of postal ballot counting. In 2019, the EC has waived the norm of stopping the penultimate of EVM counting if the postal ballot counting is not completed, informed Kumar.

Elaborating of the personnel deployed for counting in the State, Kumar said counting in Odisha will be taken up in 63 centres and around 6,700 personnel were deployed to count the votes. He added that each counting centre has 3 counting halls. And one micro observer is mandated to monitor 3 halls.

The CEO has cautioned all polling agents not to bring any electronic gadgets to the counting hall as they are not permitted by ECI. Only RO are the exceptions. But they have to deposit their mobile phones at the communication centre.

Kumar also informed that each counting centre to have three tables for counting supervisor, counting assistant and micro observer, who is either a central government or CPSE employee.

The role of micro observer is to file an independent Form 17 C, Part II to the ECI.

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